Seattle Coffee Direct Decides You Need $40 Worth Of Coffee Per Day

If you’ve been tempted by Facebook ads promising cheap “introductory” offers from Seattle Coffee Direct or World Bean Cafe, located in the world coffee capital of Evanston, Illinois, readers Adam and Ivan say, “don’t do it!” The ads promise t-shirts or a free coffee grinder as an incentive to sign up, or tempting introductory offers. But you’re really signing up for a coffee delivery service for close to $80 per month. Or more, as reader Ivan learned. He says that the company accidentally billed him for, and sent, two bags of coffee per day.

A few months ago, Adam was drawn in by a Facebook ad promising five North Face t-shirts for $5.

I signed up for a $5 introductory offer from Seattle Coffee Direct. I thought, “Why not?” Well the coffee arrives and I notice on my bank statement a charge for $28.10, not $5. Then I notice two charges three days apart for $38.95. When I finally call, things really get interesting. When I first get Mike from CS on the line, I don’t even give him my name, acct number or anything, and he’s already saying he can close the account and refund the money, two things I had yet to even ASK for. Obviously, they have to do a lot of this. What I come to find out is that by (stupidly) giving them my information, they had signed me up for twice-weekly coffee shipments, at a cost of $38.95 per week. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, Ivan shared with us his sad story of a World Bean Cafe order turned into an epic saga in search of his refund.

Please warn your readers about this company or companies. It sells coffee beans and I was sucked in via a Facebook ad. Yes, I know, or at least I should have known better. Against my better judgment I went ahead and ordered from them back in May of this year. It has been a nightmare since.

I received my initial shipment. The week following this I received another order of coffee. I thought this was odd so I checked my credit card online system. There were 7 charges from World Bean Café at $38.95 a pop! I called them immediately and they cancelled any further orders. The representative gave me a lame excuse of not specifying a shipment frequency (there was no way to specify a frequency on the order form) and that it defaulted to two bags of coffee ordered every day. Huh?

According to my credit card company all the transactions were manually entered into a POS system so that excuse is pretty iffy. She then said I should send the coffee back and I should get the credit within 60 days. Ugh! That week the orders of coffee started to come in. I refused them. >

I waited for the credits which should have been done in the beginning of August. No credits. I called again and was told it would be at least another 30 days. No credits in the beginning of September. I called on 9/17 and was apologized to and they said it would be 5-7 business days before I received my credit. Now it is October 1 with no credits. I call again and speak to a representative named “Ralph” and he gives me the same 5-7 day spiel. Not happy with the answer, I ask to speak to a manager. I was connected to “Lucy” who says she is going to manually enter the credits into her system and gives me the 5-7 day speech. I wait. October 12 rolls around and still no credits. I checked this morning and no credits have posted to my account. All this time I have been paying interest on these transactions and am fed up. I have started the charge back procedures with my credit card company. Hopefully that will be the end of it.

Lesson learned and all I can say is, “Never Again!”

The coffee subscription scheme has been around for a long time—look at Gevalia—but the Facebook ads seem to be a new phenomenon. Let this serve as a lesson to Adam, Ivan, and all of our readers: always scroll down and make sure to read all of the fine print.

What the company actually promises (or maybe “threatens”) is to ship two bags of coffee to subscribers every two weeks.

Semimonthly Program: Twice a month you will receive a package with 2 bags of coffee and will be billed $12.90 per bag of coffee, plus $6.95 per bag for shipping and handling.

So they’re charging for shipping alone a bit less than you might pay for a pound of mediocre coffee on sale.

Speaking of pounds, though, there is no mention on the site of how big a bag is. Forget the grocery shrink ray that puts 12-ounce bags of coffee on store shelves—the packets pictured on the site look smaller than a pound.

(Photo: Matthew Oliphant)

Comments

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  1. Trai_Dep says:

    Isn’t two pounds of coffee per day the standard Seattle dose?
    It sounds like Consumerist isn’t respecting the diversity of cultures that our great nation enjoys. Tsk. TSK!
    (And by “diverse cultures”, I’m talking about King Kong-sized, caffeinated monkeys on the backs of our near-Northern neighbors.)
    Good thing someone isn’t selling WA water, or they’d get three cubic feet of rainwater delivered every day.

    Our Northern neighbors, of course, quaff whatever unholy mush comes out of their bark-berries-and-maple-leaf stills. Sounds awful, sure, but keeps our Canadian brothers hale & hearty enough to wrestle the roaming harbor seals out of the way that often clog their freeway onramps.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @Trai_Dep: I think that much coffee would kill even the most hardened journalist.

    • ElleDriver says:

      @Trai_Dep: I would hardly call Canadian coffee “unholy mush” – Tim Hortons is making a serious run in the US coffee market. Devotees drink that stuff like liquid crack.

      (But you are right about the roaming harbor seals.)

      • yentaleh says:

        @ElleDriver:

        Amen Sister Amen. I too bow to the Tim Horton G-ds and order a double/double and a maple dip. They are soooo good! Better than that American Company Duncan somebody.

        • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

          @yentaleh: Actually, the Canadian Tim Hortons have great coffee. Everyone I have tried in the U.S. (Detroit area, although a friend in Buffalo speaks highly of their Timmy Hos) tastes burnt. Hell, even McDonald’s has better coffee than the U.S. Tim Hortons I have been to.

          On Topic, I have almost ordered from SCD a few times through a different deal site, but some voice in the back of my head has stopped me each time. Although, I would have used a pre-paid card or Paypal VCC so things like this wouldn’t happen. Something always seemed fishy to me, especially after reading the T&C on their site (to be fair, they might have changed it the last time I checked about three months back, or so).

      • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

        @ElleDriver: Liquid crack??!! WHERE???

        (frantically looking for my next caffeine high)

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @ElleDriver: Good recommendation. Tim Hortons looks worth a try. Then… Harbor Seals, I’m keeping an EYE on you!

      • RandomZero says:

        @ElleDriver: It’s time for me to admit to a dark secret – Canada’s secret shame. Freshness policies aside, Tim Horton’s?

        Really isn’t that good.

        It is burnt-tasting, as a rule. It might be good by drive-thru standards (and it beats the hell out of Dunkin Donuts), but it’s mediocre compared to any other place you would sit down and have a cup. And don’t get me started on that flavored swill they have the audacity to call cappucino – it’s not even espresso beans.

        If Canada’s coffee is to be judged by a single chain, please make it Second Cup.

  2. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    At this point, I think that anybody with an IQ above 75 (which includes probably half the people that post on Consumerist – the rest of you know who you are) understands that if you sign up for a “free trial” or an “introductory offer” online you are actually signing up for the “scam of the century.”

  3. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    Ivan’s experience shows why you should immediately file a dispute with your credit card company, even while attempting to work things out with the merchant. He would not have paid interest on the amounts in question while the dispute was pending.

  4. morganlh85 says:

    Nearly ALL the ads on Facebook are uber-shady. Don’t click!

  5. chocobo says:

    Thank goodness for chargebacks. Ivan just should have done his sooner… after the first 7 days with no refund, I would have filed a chargeback right away.

  6. tungstencoil says:

    Ugh… this sucks. All those subscription things are awful. If I see that, I tend to run – IMO, if you sell a good product at a fair price, and provide decent service, you don’t have to trick people into repeat ordering.

    BTW, I order green beans (from Sweet Maria’s online, who have great service) and roast my own. Not only do I get amazingly fresh, delicious coffee, but it’s *less* expensive than decent store-bought stuff. That’s because, when the beans aren’t roasted, they have a shelf life of months instead of days. Oh, and they support a lot of free trade and other cool things.

    Roast your own folks!

  7. coren says:

    I might be confused or misreading, but it doesn’t look like anyone did anything with North Face, or if they did, it doesn’t seem to have bearing on this story?

  8. swagv says:

    What kind of moron gives out money for something in a Facebook ad anyway?

  9. MooseOfReason says:

    I signed up for a “free sample” of coffee about a year ago, from Gevalia. I just had to pay $3.15 for three boxes. A couple weeks after that arrived, another box came, along with a bill for $20-something.

    I sent them an e-mail telling them I didn’t order it, and asking how to return an unopened package, and they didn’t send an e-mail back, or another bill.

  10. nstonep says:

    Hh…srry…cn’t fl srry fr smn tht wld ctlly wr nrth fc t-shrt. t lst h hs ngh cff t kp hm p whl h’s clmbng Mt. Rnr.

    n smplr trms:
    Strk 1: Rdng Fcbk d.
    Strk 2: Thnkng Fcbk d sn’t schm (Hw cn dnt t th skm Dfns Fnd?)
    Strk 3: Gvng yr crdt crd nfrmtn t Fcbk dvrtsr.

    m…yr t! ( bnch f mny)

  11. Buffet says:

    Wasn’t it P.T.Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute!”? As long as this holds true, internet scammers will thrive. Caveat Emptor!

  12. Hulapop says:

    Support your local roaster. Their coffee is better.

  13. pavel.kiev says:

    There is a free service at Bank of America. Citi cards are doing this as well! You go to their website and generate a temporary account number – it will expire in a month or so. Moreover you can preset a spending limit say $15 – and one cannot go over it! At any time you can log in and close your temporary account number! I am surprized people are not doing this. One must be insane to give your real account number to anyone online theses days.

  14. ginab says:

    I tried Seattle Coffee Direct back in June. The deal was a $2.00 package to try their coffee and was to come with 2 thermal coffee cups. I though this seemed great. I decided, after reading further, cancel the same day. I even received an email with a confirmation number stating that it had been canceled. Luckily, I had used my Paypal debit card and had buyer protection. Even after this, I found another charge on my card for $38.95, just 2 days later. I immediately called the company and complained that a trial isn’t a trial unless you can actually experience the product before deciding you want more. By the end of the call they agreed to refund my card and directed me to refuse the package coming. I did. The refund didn’t show up on my card so I called them back. At first the rep said they hadn’t received the package back, then a little later said they did. He also told me it would take around 4-6 weeks to get my credit, so I waited. Nothing was ever refunded.

    Okay, so to top all of this off, just this past week (5 months later), a $79.00 charge shows up on my Paypal account. Imagine my surprise when I saw this. The great thing is that I had kept the original cancellation email and disputed the charge with Paypal. I also had to pay a $34.00 stop payment fee with my bank. It did get reversed and I had to hot card my debit card. This type of thing should never happen, and I’m amazed that a company such as this is allowed to continue on stealing people’s money.

  15. kat52 says:

    Same thing with tea,I had 5 taken out of my account before I even knew it,sent them all back and asked for refund,nothing,they said I put down for 1 shipment a week and I only drink one cup a day,told them they were full of it and to send my money back! 4 months later and still get the same thing

  16. katielynn1102 says:

    I have been trying since October 2009 to get a refund of charges for 7 packages of coffee never received. Spent hours on the phone, occasionally talked to someone, given a reference number etc., finally recieved 3 credits, with 4 outstanding.. Then I emailed with all the information, to be told a refund would be within 7-10 days, nothing. I have again emailed, now the time frame is 30-40 days. If I ever receive the refund in total, I will celebrate and go buy a good cup a coffee at a competitor! What a scam!

  17. nybiker says:

    @PsiCop: You’re right. And the one time I got some holiday-themed coffee that I didn’t order, they credited me the charges (including the shipping) and haven’t made any other mistakes. I am currently set up to get my coffee at the widest interval possible so as to minimize my expense.

    I might have to cancel it though in the coming weeks as my finances are getting tighter.

  18. SteveBMD says:

    @PsiCop: I agree… Gevalia wasn’t such a bad deal. Twice I used it to get the free coffee maker (which was pretty cool) then canceled my subscription right away.

    Okay, so I’m a deadbeat, but you won’t find me complaining about Gevalia.

  19. GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

    @PsiCop: I used to be in Gevalia also. I only received what I signed up for on time and no abuses. I did completely understand I was signing up for auto-delivery of coffee. They had this one signature blend back then that was very tasty. I don’t lump them in with these others. I had no trouble cancelling the plan.

  20. Chris Walters says:

    @PsiCop: I signed up for Gevalia two days ago, largely as a test for Consumerist, and I was unhappy with the experience.

    Someone had sent in a Morning Deal offering 3 free boxes of tea or coffee and a travel mug from Gevalia. The deal didn’t mention “with membership” and I was intrigued, because that’s not usually how membership companies like Gevalia worked. I clicked through, and overlooked a phrase in the longer description that implied membership, and blindly signed up. The entire time, I kept looking around the site for details on any membership plan, but didn’t see one. What I did see, however, were lots of descriptions of Gevalia’s awesome membership benefits. I thought this was a weird, too-subtle way to tell me “You’re signing up for a membership with this deal!”

    Sure enough, after I paid my $3 for the promo, I discovered on the subsequent screen that I was now a member. This annoyed me and I tried to cancel–but discovered that Gevalia doesn’t offer any way to cancel online. You have to call or mail them. I called, but customer service doesn’t open until 10am ET. The next day I called again, and was told they could do nothing because the system hadn’t processed my account. Finally, this morning (Saturday) I called and canceled. The CSR was polite but consistently tried to upsell me on my account instead of promptly following my request to cancel. More points lost.

    One more thing: the hold time to speak to a CSR both yesterday and today was about 5 minutes, but in both cases the hold message warned me I would be waiting at least 10 minutes and suggested I hang up and try another time. I think that’s a terrible way to communicate to customers who are calling in for help, and I bet it helps drive away impatient customers calling in to cancel.

    I give Gevalia a C- on how they treat customers. I can’t vouch for their quality (I tried to cancel the promo shipment but they wouldn’t, so I guess I’ll find out soon enough). They don’t do anything scammy or even borderline illegal. But they make it mighty inconvenient to get prompt customer service from them, and any company that tries to block attempts to cancel a subscription loses a lot of respect from me.

  21. yellowlight says:

    I signed up for the same promotion, it was $3 for three boxes and a coffee mug or something. It said no commitment, then I saw it subscribed me. Although you do not have to call to cancel you can just contact them via e-mail and they will cancel membership. That way you have it documented in case they try to say you did not cancel. I found canceling a bit unpleasant also since there was some back and forth via e-mail, but they did cancel future orders. The $3 order already shipped (which I am okay with because that was my original intention).

  22. Bob Lu says:

    @Chris Walters: Actually there is the description of the detail of the subscription during the ordering process. You were asked to check a box to agree the terms. and if you click into the term you can see the details. I agree it is not the most honest way to get people subscribe for some product of service, but considering what many other companies are doing, it is not too dishonest or misleading either.

    If you call to cancel their CSRs do try to upsell you, but they also DO have online cancelling, and that usually works without any hassle.

    Here is the link:
    [www.gevalia.com]

    Really, Gevalia is OK. And if you do your home work and know what you are signing for, you can take some sweet advantage of them.

  23. PsiCop says:

    @Chris Walters: I will consider myself duly warned. Thanks for the info!

  24. yellowlight says:

    @Chris Walters: Well I also should have noted I used “contact us (so it was through the website.” Maybe the direct e-mail does note accept replies or that method is quicker. I am just posting this for future reference.

  25. tekiebelu says:

    @sonneillon:
    NoScript & Adblock on FF work great! I’ve gotten so accustomed to not seeing ads that I’m surprised (& annoyed) on the rare occasion I use IE.

  26. flugennock says:

    @Trai_Dep:

    Two words for the OP:
    1. Firefox
    2. Adblock

    As far as Facebook itself: being thirty years out of college, I prefer to use the grownups’ Internet.

  27. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    @Trai_Dep:

    Normally, I wouldn’t reply so late (as I just traveled to Chicago yesterday), but I wanted to address this.

    I like darker roasts (and take my coffee black, too), but there is definitely a difference between those and older/ burnt coffee.

    As I said: My TH experience has just been the Detroit area and Canada – and there is a quality difference between the two. (And I agree with Random Zero: Second Cup is much better than TH.) To be fair, I haven’t tried the US THs in a while, because of multiple bad experiences at different ones. (They might have been coincidences for all I know.)

    For now, however, I don’t see myself stopping by a Tim Hortons again unless I’m with someone else; there are too many choices out there.